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'Morning Edition' tests a plant-based version of Chili

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Nothing warms the bones and the soul quite like a hearty bowl of chili. Today, we're fixing to bring you a chili recipe that'll tantalize your taste buds and, if you're a hardcore Texas chili-maker, get you to raise one of those eyebrows. Our recipe comes from Jack Bishop of the PBS television show "America's Test Kitchen."

JACK BISHOP: This is a plant-based chili for people who love meaty chili but are trying to eat less meat. I promise you, when you're done with this, if you were to serve this to someone, they would think it was beef.

MARTÍNEZ: Jack's recipe has enough taste and texture to satisfy the most carnivorous carnivore. Now, the biggest surprise was that I was able to make it at home without burning down my kitchen.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOD SIZZLING)

BISHOP: You're going to stir it occasionally. So if you've got a spatula or a wooden spoon.

MARTÍNEZ: How about that?

BISHOP: That looks good. I mean, it's really a pancake turner, but we're going to give you a pass on that.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter) It's what I got, Jack. It's what I got.

(SOUNDBITE OF GLASS BOWLS CLINKING)

MARTÍNEZ: I was in Los Angeles, while Jack kept an eye on me from a safe distance. He was in Boston, watching over Zoom. We began by sauteing onions, garlic, chili powder and tomatoes.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOD SIZZLING)

MARTÍNEZ: So, so far, Jack, there is nothing different with what we are doing if this were a meat chili - a real meat chili.

BISHOP: Part of that is using all the familiar flavors - right? - so that the final product is something that's familiar yet a little different.

MARTÍNEZ: Here comes the different part. We added plant-based meat from the company Beyond Meat. Jack says you can also use veggie meat from Impossible Foods.

BISHOP: So we've done taste tests here in the Test Kitchen, and the Impossible and the Beyond are our two favorites. They do the best job of replicating the texture and the meaty, savory flavor of ground beef.

MARTÍNEZ: So, Jack, when we did our segment - now how many months ago? - we were doing burgers, plant-based burgers for Fourth of July. So on that day, that was my first plant-based meal, and I have not looked back. It has been plant-based every single day since.

BISHOP: Wow. And are you feeling better?

MARTÍNEZ: You know what? It took a few months because I don't think the change happened right away. I feel cleaner inside, if that makes any sense. It might be in my head, Jack. It might not be. It might be something real. But I feel like I am cleaner inside than I ever have been in my whole life.

BISHOP: Well, I can't imagine that, like, when we first talked, that I was going to have so much impact on your life. I mean, it's a little bit of an awesome responsibility at this point. I don't know what's going to happen after this segment.

MARTÍNEZ: We have now come to the part of our story that might be hard to swallow for chili-makers in the Lone Star State. That's because our next ingredient will never, ever be found in any bowl of chili that's served (singing) deep in the heart of Texas.

BISHOP: We're going to add a 15-ounce can of red kidney beans.

MARTÍNEZ: Beans in chili?

(SOUNDBITE OF WHIP CRACKING)

MARTÍNEZ: Yep. Them's fighting words.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BISHOP: All right. I'm going to just stipulate to everyone who's listening in Texas and the fact that we just added beans - you know, OK, I know we're in trouble 'cause, in Texas, it's about the meat. But, you know, in a plant-based chili, we only put four ounces of the plant-based meat in there. And so we need more protein, and so we're adding the red kidney beans in here, fully acknowledging this is the direction that we went. Hope you're OK with this. I mean...

MARTÍNEZ: I'm OK with it. My wife, who is from the Midland-Odessa area of West Texas - and when I put the beans in there, I looked around to make sure that she wasn't looking. And what does this look like to you, Jack, a roadside diner in West Texas? My goodness.

BISHOP: I think the only place where I think people can get themselves in trouble - if we were to call this Texas chili, then we'd be in trouble.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

BISHOP: Right? I mean, you know, because it's not. But we didn't - we're not calling this Texas chili. We're just calling it Weeknight Meaty Chili.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE CHILI SONG")

WILLIAM CLARK GREEN: (Singing) Don't you put no beans in my chili. Don't you put no beans in my chili. If you put beans into my chili, you don't know beans about making chili.

MARTÍNEZ: Weeknight Meaty Chili is one of the recipes in a new book from "America's Test Kitchen." It's called "Vegan Cooking For Two." It features more than 200 dishes designed for committed vegans, as well as folks who might be - como se dice - veggie curious?

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOD SIZZLING)

MARTÍNEZ: When it comes to trying to introduce plant-based dishes to other people, do you have to let people know exactly what you are going to give them? Because my mom, my dad and my brother - they won't do it. And I think, in the few months that I have been enjoying plant-based eating, that they wouldn't know the difference. If I gave them, say, a fried crispy chicken sandwich that was made out of a plant-based patty, they would not know the difference. So is it OK for me to just give them something and not tell them and have them love it? Or should I tell them beforehand?

BISHOP: Probably the most important thing is to make sure that you're aware of any allergies or food sensitivities, right?

MARTÍNEZ: My dad is allergic to anything new.

BISHOP: Well, I'm of the school of telling people and making it a challenge. Do a taste test. Do the meat-based version and the plant-based version, but don't tell them which one is which, kind of gamify it a little bit 'cause that may be a way to get people to overcome their fears. How does that sound?

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's the honorable way to go. I have no honor, Jack. So that's why (laughter), with my parents and my brother, I might just force it on them and see what happens.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD FIGHT")

UNSPOKEN: (Singing) Keep fighting the good fight. Never give up. Never give in. Keep letting your light shine.

BISHOP: What's going on in your skillet?

MARTÍNEZ: All right.

BISHOP: I'm just kind of curious. You know, I want to make sure we're paying attention to the cooking.

MARTÍNEZ: It smells great. It smells great. It looks great. I mean, it's almost screaming, eat me now.

BISHOP: All right. Why don't you take a little taste and see if it needs any salt and pepper?

MARTÍNEZ: All right, here goes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SKILLET BEING SCRAPED)

MARTÍNEZ: Man, this works. Oh, my gosh. I can't believe it, Jack. This works. It really works.

BISHOP: You cooked it. That's the big thing.

MARTÍNEZ: I'm shocked. To have this Weeknight Meaty Chili turn out as well as it did, I'm thrilled. I'm so happy. I'm so happy. And aside from that, I'll get to eat it, too, so that makes me even more happy.

BISHOP: Well, I'm thrilled. I feel, as your coach, I've done my job.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, Jack, thank you so much for taking me through Weeknight Meaty Chili from the book "Vegan Cooking For Two: 200+ Recipes For Everything You Love To Eat." Thank you very much.

BISHOP: You're welcome, and thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE CHILI SONG")

GREEN: (Singing) Don't you put no beans in my chili. Don't you put no beans in my chili.

MARTÍNEZ: Jack Bishop hosts the PBS television show "America's Test Kitchen."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE CHILI SONG")

GREEN: (Singing) You don't know beans about making chili. Don't put no beans in my chili. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.